Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Not surprised at the turn of events at Kingdom Trails

The buzz in the Northeast (US) mountain biking community right now is how the Kingdom Trails riding area just got decapitated by three land owners who have pulled out of the land use collective.  The areas in the map below indicate the properties that are NO LONGER open to mountain bikes. 

Those are some of the best trails on Darling Hill that just got closed off because of mountain bikers  being disrespectful to other users. While it's a sad day for mountain biking in the Northeast it's not surprising. It seems that there is a total lack of respect in the mountain biking community towards other users and land owners that allow us to ride on their property. 

You might not realize this but the State of Connecticut is a big land owner in which many, many miles of mountain bike trails traverse. What would happen if the State decided that mountain biking was no longer allowed in our state parks and forests? Connecticut mountain bikers would go nuts! Just because its public land and you pay taxes doesn't give you the right to build illegal trails. In fact when that happens, it hinders others that are trying to get more legal trails built on State lands from doing so. 

Being respectful to the land owners and those that build the trails also goes for knowing when not to ride the trails.  Case in point, two weeks ago, on Friday and Saturday (12/13 & 12/14), the area got 3 to 4 inches of rain. On Sunday, no one should have been riding trails in this area. If you really needed to ride, should have tried one of the local rail trails or a more sensible thing to do would be to go out and do a little trail maintenance. That's what I did last Sunday. It seems, however, that people elected to ride Upper Paugussett, given all the ruts that I found on the trails during the snow/ice storm we had the following Tuesday. 

Weather patterns have changed significantly in Northeast and it's now pretty common to see milder temperatures in November and December and with the freeze/thaw cycle, accompanied by a rain means you need to stay off the trails longer right now than you normally would have to in the Summer. 

The trails at Upper Paugussett used to drain well, that is until someone kept leaf blowing trails in the fall for a few years ago and took away that protective barrier that helped drain the trails quickly. It seems like that person is no longer doing that but unfortunately the proverbial damage has been done.  Now there are muddy sections where there were none which are leading to trail braids because no one wants to fix the problems they created.

Making changes to the trail, or closing off sections that you don't agree with, is also not being respectful to the land owner or the people who built the trail. I wonder how many people that go in to do work actually have permission to do so? If I am planning a major work day I always let the land manager know of the event. I have seen some recent re-routes that I know no permission was sought. In fact, one of the re-routes closed off a fun technical section. If you can't ride it or it slows your time on a Strava segment, don't take away another person's challenge. This change along with the removal of a few up and overs is evidence of dumbing down taking place. Improve your skills and don't change the trail!  

Don't let what happened at Kingdom Trails happen here in Connecticut! Folks are working hard to get more access and expand trail systems.  Illegal trail building makes it harder to convince land owners that we are respectful to their property and grant us permission to build more legitimate trails. Not riding after a rain or during a thaw further tarnishes our our credibility and makes us look like a bunch of self entitled pricks with no respect for the land.

Don't be that guy!

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